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What’s worse than a bleeding airline? A bleeding airline with a software glitch

Weekend woes.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Air India’s woes never seem to end.

The loss-making national carrier, already reeling under heavy debt and losses, has had a tough few months. Since February it has been coping with the disruption caused by the closure of Pakistan’s airspace, and now a technical glitch has compounded its distress.

On April 27, a five-hour shutdown of the state-owned airline’s check-in software sent flyers and staff into a tizzy leading to a delay of over 155 flights across the globe.

Air India’s passenger service system (PSS) software was non-operational between 3.30 am and 8.45 am on Saturday, according to chairman and managing director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani. The PSS is owned and managed by Atlanta-based SITA.

The effect of the technical glitch, which also affected the flagship carrier’s subsidiaries, Air India Express and Alliance Air, continued into Sunday when 137 flights were delayed.

Bollywood celebrities and other passengers took to social media platforms to share their frustration.

SITA, in a press release following the discovery of the snag, said it would launch a probe into the server failure.

The airline sought to quell some of the ire by making alternative arrangements. “The passengers who will miss their flights will be given hotel accommodation or will be rescheduled in a different flight of Air India or of another airline,” Lohani said while briefing the press on April 27.

By Monday, though, the server had been restored and flights were back to running on time. Air India operates 470 flights per day while the Air India Group provides 674 flight services.

Double whammy

The software failure comes at a time when the airline is facing losses due to the closure of Pakistan’s airspace following the breaking out of hostilities in the wake of the Indian Air Force’s Feb. 26 airstrike on terrorist hideouts inside Pakistan.

Pakistan continues to restrict its airspace to flights from and into India. The disruption has forced the carrier to take longer routes, adding to fuel costs. Up to 311 flights between four airports in Europe and four in southeast Asia have been affected, according to Reuters.

Rerouting, which could include stops for fuel and crew changes, adds one to three hours to flights headed for Europe and the US, the airline added, and passengers are not allowed as much baggage.

Another report suggested that the airline is incurring a daily loss of Rs6 crore on extra fuel, cabin staff expenses and reduced flights due to this. Quoting sources, the report stated that the airline has contacted the civil aviation ministry to ensure it’s compensated for the loss.

Sector experts believe the closure is likely to continue till the general elections in India are over.

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